Saturday, April 13, 2019

Don’t spoil our Mountain!

There’s another big stoush brewing in Hobart. This time it’s about the proposal to put a cable car up Mt. Wellington. This mountain (1271 m) overlooks most of the city and is its most distinctive landmark -on a par with Tokyo’s Mt. Fuji or Bali’s Gung Agnung.

The main objection by residents is that the proposed route runs directly across its face and across the “The Organ Pipes,” one of its most impressive features, thereby spoiling the view for everyone – tourists and locals alike. I mean would the Japanese tolerate an intrusive manmade structure on Mt. Fuji, despoiling that picture postcard look? I don’t think so. Mt. Rushmore has a chairlift but does it run up the face (s)? No. It provides much enjoyment some two miles away from the historic monument and is no less popular for that. This is our Mt. Rushmore.

Views over South Arm and the South East
One of the things which impressed me in many places in Asia, was that despite cities being very crowded and devoted almost entirely to economic activity with little regard for urban planning or aesthetics, the mountains were largely inviolate with only the occasional ancient temple to interrupt the forest cover. For many people, including our Aboriginal people, mountains have spiritual significance and even people without a shred of spirituality,  still go to the mountain to commune with nature, not concrete and steel. Except for a lady with a pram, I have rarely heard anyone complain about the two minute walk from the Carpark to the summit. One of the major reasons people visit Tasmania -and bring in far more tourist dollars than those which have been promised by the cable car company, is precisely because the ratio of nature to people and built structures currently favours nature.  A cable car up the front of the mountain would immediately challenge that perception.

View over Hobart and the Derwent

Not that I am personally opposed to cable cars as such. I have seen some that fit in rather well -for instance those in Valparaiso, or the one that takes you to the Royal Palace in Budapest. Both of these are relatively urban, blend into their surroundings and do not offend the eye. Those at Mt. Elbrus in Russia, come in both kinds. The upward journey over three cable cars is of the in- your- face kind, but runs over neighbouring foothills, while the downward journey takes you down the back of the mountain, stopping halfway at a service centre with restaurants and souvenir stalls, and then proceeds gently downhill around the the mountain under tree -cover to the bus parking area. I’m sure that if a cable car could be built discreetly and in sympathy with the environment and the sensibilities of other users, both groups could be satisfied.

View to the North East  - of course the mountain is visible from below at all these points too

What is far more offensive in my view, is the way our state government has ridden roughshod over the wishes of its citizens and their local councils and virtually given a private company carte blanche, without allowing for adequate consultation with those who will be most affected. This is after all the  People’s Park. They should not be bullied into accepting major changes to their skyline.

Spectacular as this vew is, no private company should have the right to control the summit, especially not in a public reserve that belongs to all Tasmanians. Nor should it be open to commercial exploitation.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Greener Buildings, Greener Cities and Vertical Forests

Saw this building - the grey green one, from the train in Sydney but couldn't find anyone who knew
 anything about it

For about a year now, I have been wondering about a green fringed building I glimpsed from the train window on the way back from Canberra last year. It turns out that it is Number 1 Central Park built by French design group Ateliers Jean Nouvel and Sydney Architects PTW and which was voted best tallest building in the world (beating 87 other competitors) by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat at Chicago’s Illionois Institute of Technology for its “visible use of green design.” 

(1)Central building Broadway Sydney-1
Here's a better image by Sardaka (talk) 08:28, 8 July 2014 (UTC) [CC BY 3.0 (] 

The building which consists of 623 apartments is more than a pretty face.  As well as the 35,200 plants in its hanging gardens, it has a grey water plant which keeps the building green and is expected to save the city one million litres of drinking water a day. Its tri –generation plant will save 136,000 tons of greenhouses gases from entering the atmosphere over 25 years, as well as minimising noise, heat and pollution. It also features a heliostat which bounces natural light into retail areas and public spaces during the day and features an LED light display at night.

Hanging gardens of One Central Park, Sydney 
Showing off the Heliostat
Image by bobarc [CC BY 2.0 (]

It’s a trend which is rapidly gaining acceptance in many parts of the world. Largely propagated by Milanese Architect Stefano Boeri, green buildings and vertical forests are sprouting from Mexico to Albania and from Cairo to Jakarta. China which never does things by halves, has recently commissioned him to build a whole town. The Liuzou Forest City which will be home to 30,000 people, will have 40,000 trees and over one million plants. Together they will sequester 10,000 tons of CO2 and remove 57 tons of pollutants per year, as well as contributing 900 tons of oxygen. 

 According to Stefan Boeri cities could contain as much biomass as rainforest and vertical forests such as those below have the potential to reduce urban heat island effects outside by as much as 30%  and inside by around 3% thereby also reducing energy costs required for cooling. They also encourage biodiversity and provide a better quality of life in urban areas while taking up less space on the ground. These are just a few of the benefits associated with greening our cities. See some examples of his work below and his manifesto. For more on both see his website.

It would be lovely if we could all live in tree houses, though given my failure rate with potplants, I should probably decline unless they are self watering.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

A serendipitous encounter - A Brewer's Tale

View from St. Andrew's Park

Yes I know it’s April Fool’s Day – did you get pranked? This is not a prank, just a bit of fun. I was having a pleasant stroll through St. Andrew's Park near the old Scots Church when I glimpsed another large tower in the Lane below. This is an interesting area where the sacred and the profane rub shoulders. Always intrigued by our industrial history, I zoomed in and was surprised to find barrels in one of the upper windows. Closer inspection revealed it to be the home of Captain Bligh's Brewery, another of our fine craft breweries* which are rapidly gaining as much attention as Tasmanian cheeses and wine. 

Close up - a motor mechanic has the premises below

A small sign said the brewery was only open on the Third Friday of the month, but when I tapped gingerly on the door, gentleman brewer Steve Brooks interrupted his work loading aromatic malt into a vat and agreed to tell me a bit about the building.  Here’s as much as I can remember…. Where's a pen and paper when you need one? I'll blame it on the fumes.

Decor is Man Cave meets Boy's Own - comfortable couches, beer barrels with cushions, snippets of history on the walls

The building itself dates back to the 1830’s when it housed The Tasmanian Brewing Company.  Alas, the original owner, a gentleman by the name of Punchon, ended up in New Norfolk, where he loved to entertain the visitors who came to the asylum specifically to view the antics of the insane.  Next it became the James Pale Ale Brewery, but Cascade Brewery, determined to gain a monopoly, bought the building along with many of Hobart’s pubs and quietly let it die. 
George Adams of Tattersalls fame, bought or built the large building which fronts Warwick Street and runs all the way down to Elizabeth Street where it met the Lord Raglan Hotel.  When George Adams died, his brewing equipment was dragged out onto the street and physically broken up.  This may have coincided with the Temperance Union's efforts to stamp out the Demon Drink.

The view from Warwick  and Elizabeth Street  - the brewery which once belonged to George Adams may reopen again as a Distillery
Gleaming vats are named after close friends or characters in Karen's books (see below)
Some time later, a co –operative of brewers began operating out of the lower building, yet in 1930, it was severely sabotaged with soap being poured into the vats. The Cascade Brewery was once again thought to be behind it, but no charges were ever laid. This time the brewery did not recover. Furniture company, Coogans occupied the site for a time and it was then reincarnated as an antique  store. After being sold again recently, it looks like becoming another distillery, but Steve isn’t fazed. “The more the merrier, “he says with a twinkle in his eye. George Adams would be pleased.

Coming soon - a wee dram of whisky, rum and gin

Steve’s been here for five years now. While he specialises in colonial ales, light beer and heritage cider, he has also started making whisky, rum and and his own particular version of gin and tonic. I am not a beer drinker, so I can't speak for the quality, but the gin has already won a silver medal. After coming to Tasmania to take care of a sick friend, he and wife Karen couldn’t bring themselves to go back to the rat race. Karen has just published her twelfth book, "The Chocolate Maker's Daughter." The previous one is fittingly entitled “The Brewer’s Tale.” 

If you want to see inside the brewery and have a jolly good time – there are usually musicians and a food wagon outside, then call in between 4 and 10 pm on the third Friday of the month – the next one will be on April 19.
A fitting title

*Tasmania has twenty plus small craft breweries, eight of them in Launceston, eleven around Hobart, one each in St. Mary's and Railton and one on Bruny Island. Check them out on the Tassie Beer Trail  map or if you can't wait till the Third Friday of the Month, you can taste their products here. Many of them, including Captain Bligh, will be represented at the Fresh Hop Festival in Launceston later this month (April 26-28th). Click here for details.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Some short walks at last and a glimpse of the Shot Tower

A little autumn colour behind the dwelling at the Shot Tower, Taroona

My friend has been a bit better this week and so has the weather, so we have had a couple of short walks, a breath of fresh  air and  our usual long talks  - about philosophy, the state of the world and things which have gotten up our noses since the last time we walked. I always find it quite therapeutic. Not sure about my friend, but he’s a very patient soul. Although the walks haven’t been too strenuous out of consideration for his state of health, I am so out of shape that I have secretly also appreciated the fact that both of them were only about an hour each.  
1. Whitewater Creek, Kingston
The first walk was a very gentle one along Whitewater Creek in Kingston – not spectacular, but easy going and very good as a first try. It also had some excellent information about wetlands of which this is a part, and how important they are in absorbing run-off and to filter out pollutants before they reach the  river. This was brought home to me again while watching the devastation caused by flooding in the wake of the three Superstorms which hit Florida, Texas and the Caribbean in 2017. One of the scientists in this video argues that if so much of Houston and the other cities hadn’t been paved over and the wetlands been allowed to do their job, the floods would not have been as severe. 

Of course we have our own storms to contend with – Cyclones Veronica (!!!) and Trevor are raging in the North East and North West of Australia as I write and the one in Mozambique is far worse. However, for more on what unassuming looking wetlands can do for us and why we should protect them, read an old post  Croak if you like Wetlands” from a few years ago. The story about why we are having more superstorms is on sbs On Demand “The Rise of the Super Storms” though you may not be able to see it outside Australia 

2. Alum Cliffs, Track, Taroona   
The second walk starts from the top carpark at the Shot Tower, at Taroona about 11 km south of Hobart.  Built by  Joseph Moir in 1870 to make lead shot  for muzzle loaders, this  58.7 metre sandstone tower is a magnificent landmark from which you can see great views up and down the coast, especially if you can bring yourself  to climb the ? steps to the top.  There is much dispute about its height and quite a few other little secrets which you can discover at Discover Tasmania.
There is a charge to climb the stairs (see below) and they also do an excellent Devonshire Tea, though that was not our plan today.  

A glimpse of the Shot Tower - Largest sandstone tower of its kind still left in the world. Shame it wasn't sunnier

Although you can walk all the way to Kingston from here - around three hours, I was rather hoping that we would be able to go left and walk along the cliff tops to Hinsby Beach.  This was a popular walk some years ago, but a landslip led to the closure of the track. Now someone has apparently built a house right across the middle of where the old track was.  Another walker with whom we swapped memories of Lombok, did say that he was pretty sure that if you walked through the front door and out the back, the track would still be there, but he didn’t recommend it. Besides, the whole place is pretty thoroughly fenced off.

Yes, you do have to go up this hill!

The trip downhill and up the next was daunting enough and gave us an excellent workout. At the top there’s a fine lookout over ravaged sea cliffs and a lovely sheltered picnic area, then it’s all the way back down and up, before the promised rain overtakes us.

The reward - I just have to imagine it on a sunny day
Click  here  for Admission details  re Shot Tower
or here for more about Joseph Moir and the history